When Jeff (Jesse Janzen) and Barry (Dustin Miller), two brothers whose shared criminal past has spit them out on two different paths, decide to make some quick money by robbing local businessman Bob in the middle of a messy divorce, they expect a quick and easy payoff. Along with ‘the tag-along’ Tim (Tommy Koponen) the plan is simple: get into the house, find the stacks of cash that he has hidden away, and get out without anyone noticing. Except, as is the way, nothing goes to plan and soon the three men are left with a bloodied hostage and his wife Tracy (Jillian Rohrbach) tied up and a decided lack of money.
Billed as a dark, dramatic comedy, Where Sleeping Dogs Lie does little to live up to any of the descriptors, spiralling from one melodramatic moment to the next with nothing substantial to connect the two. In a bid to avoid non-stop exposition throughout the first act of the film, writer-director Josh Pierson moves between the crime itself and the build-up —opening with Jeff detachedly spouting a Reservoir Dogs-esqe monologue about obesity and America to a fed-up waitress, before cutting to him, bleeding heavily from a broken nose in the kitchen of the house they are attempting to rob.
The narrative then flits, seemingly at random, between the present and the past in order to fill in the gaps but does so in such a disordered way that by the time Jeff and Barry meet up in a bar to discuss it, the audience is already aware of their relationship and further expansion on their individual situations seems entirely pointless. With the exception of one revelation that comes late in the second act, the non-linear structure does little to advance the overall appeal of the film. Jeff is perhaps the only character that has any significant backstory —heavily in debt to a gangster ironically named Bunny (Atim Udoffia)—and therefore the only person who the audience is mildly invested in, but again this interest is lost due to the structural format.
The rest of cast, while working with an uneven script, are all Acting with the dial turned all the way up to eleven. Any dramatic or comedic beats that were present in the script are lost as the main trio spend the majority of the film shouting their lines at each other with little variation in delivery. Another low point is the treatment of the female characters that are sparsely littered throughout and then invariably and suddenly killed off for little reason other than to advance the limping plot. Tracy, arguably the axel around which the plot revolves is given little characterisation beyond several gratuitous shots and not even named until an hour and fifteen into the hour and a half film.
Unfortunately, there is little merit in Where Sleeping Dogs Lie to recommend it —while Pierson may have wished for this to be an intriguing format for the film to take, the execution frustrates rather than fascinates.
Where Sleeping Dogs Lie is available on VOD from July 7th
by Rose Dymock
Rose is a budding film critic, who graduated from the University of Liverpool with an MRes in Film Studies. She’s currently living back home in the Black Country in the West Midlands, juggling working full time and trying to break into criticism. She loves thrillers, great female characters, Al Pacino, and multilingual cinema. She’s not entirely sure if she’s a millennial and she wants a Lord of the Rings tattoo. Find her on twitter @rosedymock or on her website https://rosefd.wordpress.com/